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In the News....

Check out the November 2016 issue of the White Bear Press for the article about Bullenbees!

Itching for a cure: Entrepreneur uses own special formulas

When she could find no relief for her red, blotchy skin, Marie Smith decided to create her own remedy. 

Nine years later, the Medtronic engineer is spending almost as many hours in her kitchen-turned-lab as she spends in her full-time job. Only she’s not cooking dinner. Smith is cooking up skin care products to meet a swelling demand. 

With an advanced degree in physiology, the White Bear Lake mother of two is accustomed to reading cardiology journals in her quality investigations work. That research turned to dermatology in her spare time when a pregnant Smith developed a rare condition that caused a poison-ivy-like reaction all over her body. Doctors told her she was allergic to her placenta.

“I started making products for myself because of this condition,” Smith recalled. “I’ve had so many skin issues in my life; it’s insane. Everything gives me a rash. Every change of season I’d get hives, scales on my face. When I was pregnant with my second child, I was told my body was rejecting the placenta. There’s a 1 in 5 million chance to have this.”

The itchy rash was treated with a petroleum jelly-based steroid that Smith smeared all over her body. “My clothes all stuck to the jelly. I thought, ‘I can figure out how to make a pacemaker, I should be able to figure out how to make something for a rash that isn’t in petroleum jelly.’”

So she started to read. What Smith found was that vitamin B3, caffeine and green tea are effective at calming rashes. She ordered the B3 and caffeine on the internet, brewed some tea and mixed them together. “It helped me with my rash,” she said. 

There is a lot of research on topical caffeine, added Smith. “Caffeine helps reconstruct damaged DNA cells in skin overexposed to UV rays. Almost all my products have caffeine.” 

Three years after her son was born, Smith put the same ingredients in a face lotion to help with more skin issues. Called Concentrated Daily Vitamin Spread, the facial moisturizer ended up being the first product she sold and remains her best seller. 

“People at work would say, ‘Oh my gosh, the dermatologist finally gave you something that took care of the red blotches.’ And I said, ‘No, I mixed something up in my kitchen.’”

Her products are touted as “extraordinarily natural, nontoxic, dye-free and paraben-free.” Paraben is a preservative that “got a bad rap from an environmental working group,” Smith said. “Research is inconclusive whether or not it’s a carcinogen.” 

A co-worker volunteered to do a website for Smith and suggested she invent a company name. She decided to call her fledgling business Bullenbees. “It comes from the word ‘bull,’ a mythological creature of beauty from the earth, and bees. When bees disappear, it means nature is out of balance,” Smith said. “People tell me it’s a horrible name. But it grew and grew. People kept asking for different products and I kept making them. Now it’s taken on a life of its own. I’m having the best time; I love figuring this out.”

Sales have increased fourfold this year, she said, which is causing another dilemma. Smith has outgrown her kitchen and will be looking for a rental space to move her equipment. Part of the appeal with her brand, she said, is that it’s made in White Bear Lake, so she plans to keep the manufacturing process within city limits.

Distribution is expanding mostly by word of mouth. One surprising demographic are people who knit. Her Chapped Hand and Foot Therapy cream is now sold in local yarn shops. 

“Wool sucks moisture out of the skin and no one could find a good hand cream,” according to Smith. “They were using products with petroleum oils and silicones that don’t absorb into the skin. I use avocado oil or coconut oil, which goes deeper into the skin. They are flying through the hand cream. It’s hard to keep up.”

To view her list of skin care products, go to Products are also sold locally at Indulge Salon, Kowalski’s and The Mane Tease in White Bear Lake.